For the director of music. A song. A psalm.1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
2 Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing the praises of your name.”
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
When handed a document which needs to be signed or simply a piece of paper with a lot of words on it, how often do we read it? Oh sure, we may skim over it and then sign it saying we read it. We may recite back a couple of the things it said so that the person who gave it to us thinks we actually read it. But did we really read it? For the vast majority of people, probably not. Like many people, I usually ask the person who hands me the document, “what is this that I’m signing?” Now don’t start judging me because of this. How many of us actually read the Terms and Agreements when we are purchasing something online or registering a new product on our computer? Probably fewer than those who actually read the paper copies of things.
I bring this up because this is how it can be when we read through the Psalms. In the midst of a devotion or in the midst of just reading a psalm, especially a long one, it is easy to just “read” it. But in our “reading” of the psalm, are we really reading it? Are we really reflecting upon what it is saying? Better yet, being that the psalms are God’s Words written by real people with real experiences with real emotions which are very similar to the very real experiences and emotions we experience, do we ever see ourselves within the psalm?
As I have been preparing for our youth to go to the National Youth Gathering later this week and being that the theme of this year’s gathering is Real.Present.God and is based on Psalm 46, I’ve been spending a good amount of time in the psalms. As I’ve been going through the Bible Studies we have been doing on the psalms, I was taken back to a seminar I went to about four years ago on how to read the psalms. It may sound like a silly seminar to attend, but if you read through the psalm quickly, there is so much you may miss.
Let me read you a part of Psalm 66. (vs. 1-4 out of ESV translation)
Did you catch anything? Did anything stand out? I’m going to do something which if my wife was here would say is rather frightening. I’m going to let you into my mind, but only for a moment. They always said in seminary preaching classes that you first and foremost need to preach to yourself before you can preach to others. So here we go, into my mind as I read through this psalm.
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” (Ps 66:1).
Why? Why is the author of this psalm doing this? What is going on in his life to which he is being told that he should be shouting for joy, singing, and giving praise to God? Was he freed from an enemy? Did he just escape a near brush with death? There is obviously something going on here where the author is really excited.
“Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’”
Hold on a second … what deeds? What has just happened? I feel like I’ve missed something here. Maybe we’ll figure it out.
“Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.’”
Whatever it is that the author is experiencing, it must be huge as there are not many things which will make one’s enemies come cringing before the one who defeated them. Maybe though the author isn’t looking back at something but rather is looking forward to something. Maybe we’ll see, let’s continue.
“All the earth worships you and sings praise to you; they sing praises to your name.”
Wow! Not only as an individual does the author gives praise to God but we are told that the whole earth, that everything within the creation literally is bowing down to, is worshiping, and singing praises to God. We’re going to stop here because if we didn’t we would be here all day.
So … what about you, what about me? What is it that would cause you and me to follow the command to shout for joy, to sing, and to give praise to God? What would bring you and me to the point of saying how awesome God’s deeds are and then to see the whole world, the whole creation to sing praises to God?
Well, could it be that we are a free country who just celebrated her Independence from Great Britain and the tyranny of taxation without representation? Could it be that you just got a good report from the doctor? Could it be that I get to hang out with not only our 10 youth in Minneapolis for a week learning about Psalm 46 and how we have a very Real.Present.God. but that we will be there with about 25,000 other teenagers?
It could be … but is this really the reality we see? What the author of the psalm is saying is the complete opposite of what many people, you and me included see within our narcissistic and possession hungry world.
Praise God? Phish! Praise doesn’t go to God, that’s nonsense! It is me! It’s all about me and the work I have done to advance myself. And besides that, I’m not about to begin to bow down or worship anyone but myself, especially someone I can’t even see! I’m the ruler of this castle!
Far too often words like this have been said. Far too often attitudes like this have been lived out. And far too often, the one saying or living this out is doing so alone. Don’t believe me? Take a moment and stop and look at the world. Or … look into your Bible. This was the temptation presented to Adam and Eve by Satan. This was reality of the people who decided to build the golden calf at the base of Mt. Sinai instead of waiting for Moses to return from his time with God. This is the reality of King Hezekiah who inherited a wealthy kingdom and believed that he alone could continue to make it better.
Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden and not allowed to walk in the presences of God anymore. The Israelites on Mt. Sinai were punished and some even died.
Hezekiah … Hezekiah got sick. While lying in bed by himself, being at the point of the death, the prophet Isaiah relays a message. He says, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1b). Isaiah records that Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed (38:2).
I knew a man who lived with the philosophy that it was all about him and the work he did in his life. God played a very small role in his life, if any role at all at times. In his hospital room, knowing that he was dying, he sat up straight in his chair, looked me in the eyes and said … “Pastor, I’ve done a lot of really bad things in my life, can God really forgive me of them?” I looked at this tired, dying, old man and asked him, “who did God die for and which sins did he die for?” He sat back in his chair and said that God died for him and that he died to forgive him of all of his sins. At that moment, I took out my communion set. He confessed his sins, I forgave him, and received the very proof that those sins were forgiven as he received the very body and blood of his Savior, Jesus Christ.
After Hezekiah was told he was going to die, he prayed, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And then Hezekiah wept bitterly (Isaiah 38:3). Hezekiah poured his heart out before God. Hezekiah laid out everything before God. Isaiah returns to Hezekiah and says, “Thus the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5). With this renewed promise of his life being extended and with the promise from God to defend Jerusalem, Hezekiah turns to God and sings.
Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you and sing praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”
You and I, we don’t know the number of our days. We don’t know what is going to happen in the days which God has given to us. But we do know through His Word that He does hear and answer our prayers in the ways in which He knows is best. We do know through His Word that He blesses us with new blessings and mercies each and every morning. We do know through His Word the unmeasurable love He has for all people which He shows through His one and only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. You are living in the midst of some of God’s most awesome deeds. But there is one more awesome deed yet to come … the resurrection of our bodies, the perfect restoration of these bodies which God has blessed us with, and the eternal life waiting for us in the new heavens and the new earth with our Real.Present.God.
Until that day … we sing with the psalm, “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!” (Ps 66:20). Amen.